Product promises

user experience

There’s this known thing in the industry… “customer commits” – it’s this concept in which sales teams make promises to customers before making a sale, in order to get a sale. Essentially, they are making a promise to the customer that a certain feature or functionality will be in the software they buy, without any input from design and development teams. Even if that feature does not exist today, the salesperson promises it will included to close the sale.

And what happens to these promises?

They are added to the top of the product roadmap, as a top priority. So, all the other priorities the team is trying to focus on gets shifted, and they have to work to satisfy the promises made by the sales team. This is risky and problematic for every team involved.

Why is this a major issue? Well, I’ve seen many of my clients suffer through this, and not deliver on these important promises because their product teams are stretched too thin. Oftentimes, teams are not organized to handle these prioritization shifts. So things like bugs, usability issues, and backlog items fall down on the list, sometimes, not being worked on for several months or even years because they must satisfy the promises made by sales.

More often than not, your existing customer base suffers just so you can satisfy your newest customer. New product features, enhancement requests and known issues are not fixed because a whole new thing needs to be built. And this is why there are so many bad or half baked products out there. And why even some of your favorite products seem neglected in certain areas.

These are blind promises. Sales people are not always technical. They are not always lock & step with their design & development teams. And they almost certainly don’t know how to properly assess and estimate the work they are promising.

So why do we do this?

Why is this an accepted industry practice?

It’s the classic chicken & egg scenario. Do you make it before you sell it!? Or sell it so you can make it?

My take? People don’t want to be sold to.. When you design great products & services they should sell themselves! Also, people who love what you made will actually sell it for you. If we spent more time building the things we want to promise people, vs. selling things we hope we can build, not only will great products emerge, but happier and healthier teams will, too.

Let’s only make informed promises we know we can keep.

Better yet.. let’s make less promises. And go make the product itself!

Heatherlee Nguyen
TᕼE IᑎᗪIE ᑕOᑎᔕᑌᒪTᗩᑎT
𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗱𝘂𝗰𝘁 »𝗖𝗫« 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗗𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻

Get to know your users

design work, human centered design, user research

Personas should always be developed as a result of real observations, interviews and true qualitative data. Sometimes you have assumptions about your users. No problem. Just make sure your team is validating these. Do not make this up and design to it. Make it up if you must but then validate, iterate and design for the people you meet, not the ones you’ve made up in your head.

I recently created some theoretical persona docs based on my experiences studying 4 separate call centers. Over the years I’ve met 3 types of call center agents, the temp agent, the forever agent and the rising agent. I look forward to this new product team carrying this research forward.



Personas are just one tool designers can use to create alignment with stakeholders. How is your team working to understand their users?




When you can’t design for everyone, how are you deciding who to focus on; when and why?



As an employee, the temp agent is not loyal to one company. They may be a college student working part-time or a seasonal agent, but it’s temporary. They view their role as a means to an ends and typically don’t stay long. They’re likely on a different career path, using this role to gain customer service experience in the short-term. More than other agents, temp agents value time flexibility and the ability to adjust their schedule on-the-go. In most cases, they learn and adapt quickly to change.

Temp agents can sometimes skew younger in age, but that depends on the industry and geography. Freshmen agents may be completely new to the industry and/or not as skilled with the software, while seasoned temps may be extremely knowledgable. Designers should consider this range of experience levels and design for both novice and power users.



How might you empower your teams to start authentic relationships with those you design for?



The forever agent is a lifer. They are confident in their role and know customer issues well. They are task-oriented, often with a ritualistic approach to their work. They know the software and like the familiarity and predictability of process. They are used to having less autonomy and choice in scheduling and they don’t mind, even prefer, a schedule set weeks in advance.

Forever agents have been around for years, they’re aware of the pros and cons of the software. They approach tasks with less urgency and are not always inclined to report pain points, they simply navigate their way around them. These employees are more resistant to change, mostly out of fear. They are more reactive and traditional in nature. They are so used to the tools they have and generally report more satisfaction than their counterparts due to their experience.



How might you continue the conversation and include your users in the design process?



The rising agent is a star employee. They are very engaged and loyal to their company, likely on the path to team lead. Floor supervisors and other agents rely on the rising agent due to their computer experience, job knowledge and willingness to support the bigger service goals. They are great customer service agents but will not stay on the phones forever.

Rising agents are leveling up in their career, often staying in the same industry (and company) to develop into a more strategic role. They are open to change and actively solve problems. This is the type of employee who will read manuals, watch videos and play around with software on their own. They sometimes develop workarounds and become part of process improvement efforts. Rising agents make the perfect workshop and test candidates. They are committed and love helping.



How might your team create sustainable feedback loops and learning mechanisms?



What is the true essence of user-centricity? Prioritizing the relationship you have with your users, connecting with them and learning about them on a regular basis.


Persona work is never really done. Teams should be consistently visiting users to understand them as people. They are complex and they evolve too, just like our products. It’s our job to remain curious, empathetic researchers.


TᕼE IᑎᗪIE ᑕOᑎᔕᑌᒪTᗩᑎT
𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗱𝘂𝗰𝘁 »𝗖𝗫« 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗗𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻

I’m Heatherlee. An independent research and design consultant with a background in UX, a passion for service design, an interest in biomimicry and a stake in your strategy. I’m passionate about helping you bridge the gap between your product teams and the people you design for.

Contact info & more about me here.

Day in the Life at Central Command Center

design work, product research, user experience, user research

Best data center I’ve seen!
🤩👍🏽🚀

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I’m working on a recap of this research we did on-site last month. This was such a great group of people, they let us into their workspace to understand their job, process, culture. They were so generous, and funny too! Always a plus.

I love what I do!

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What’s your favorite thing about visiting your users/customers on-site?

dil copy


TᕼE IᑎᗪIE ᑕOᑎᔕᑌᒪTᗩᑎT
𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗱𝘂𝗰𝘁 »𝗖𝗫« 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗗𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻

I’m Heatherlee. An independent research and design consultant with a background in UX, a passion for service design, an interest in biomimicry and a stake in your strategy. I’m passionate about helping you bridge the gap between your product teams and the people you design for.

Contact info & more about me here.

How are you recruiting users to give product feedback?

design work, product research, user research

Quick highlight reel of how we enticed people to come collaborate with us in our booth, and engaged 80+ people to sign up for the pilot group! (They’re excited to be part of the design process. Big hopes to connect with them regularly).

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Thanks to these lovely people for letting us take their portrait! calabrio_portraits_ALL.png

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TᕼE IᑎᗪIE ᑕOᑎᔕᑌᒪTᗩᑎT
𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗱𝘂𝗰𝘁 »𝗖𝗫« 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗗𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻

I’m Heatherlee. An independent research and design consultant with a background in UX, a passion for service design, an interest in biomimicry and a stake in your strategy. I’m passionate about helping you bridge the gap between your product teams and the people you design for.

Contact info & more about me here.

Design Thinking at its finest!

design thinking, design work, human centered design

Last week at Azul Seven we coached an incredible group in the postures and mindsets of design thinking. 20 people from different departments came together to form teams and learn together.

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It was amazing to see them fully lean in, even when we asked them to spend 2 hours going up to strangers downtown Minneapolis! They gained empathy, created POVs, practiced effective brainstorming, prototyped and tested with real users.

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It was an intense 3-days: A true privilege to see the breakthroughs, to hear how they wanted to keep going after getting feedback, to know how eager they all are to use this new toolset when they returned to work this week.

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And this week, we do it all again! Day 1 with a different group from the same organization. Their goal is to have 100% of their workforce be trained in design thinking.. music to my ears!

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If you were hosting a bootcamp to teach your clients or teams something new, what would the topic be?


TᕼE IᑎᗪIE ᑕOᑎᔕᑌᒪTᗩᑎT
𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗱𝘂𝗰𝘁 »𝗖𝗫« 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗗𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻

I’m Heatherlee. An independent research and design consultant with a background in UX, a passion for service design, an interest in biomimicry and a stake in your strategy. Thanks for stopping by!

Contact info & more about me here.

I love my job!

design work

Stoked to be coaching 3 full days (x2!) of design thinking bootcamps with my favorite local agency. They’re training me this week, to do it their own unique way.. techniques they’ve been recognized for, and one of the reasons I’ve wanted to work with them for years. Dream come true to have made it here, collaborating with them, learning from them and helping their clients with big juicy problems.

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Come next week I’m “certified” to coach! ..but as with everything, I keep that learners mindset. I may be coaching but I am always a student! That’s the greatest part about working in design We don’t know everything and we don’t pretend to. But we’re curious. We’re open to change. We deeply love humanity.. And we hope to give others the tools to believe they too, are designers. We are all design thinkers at the core.. just a muscle we must discover and exercise. We are coaches but you are experts. We are facilitators but you are doers. This is about you bringing this practice to everything you do. This is a mindset shift. This is a culture change. This is practice at its best ✨


TᕼE IᑎᗪIE ᑕOᑎᔕᑌᒪTᗩᑎT
𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗱𝘂𝗰𝘁 »𝗖𝗫« 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗗𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻

I’m Heatherlee. An independent research and design consultant with a background in UX, a passion for service design, an interest in biomimicry and a stake in your strategy. I’m passionate about helping you bridge the gap between your product teams and the people you design for.

Contact info & more about me here.

Work Space Matters

design work

True or false?

wall_krisa

True or false? My team has a dedicated work space where we can fill walls with our research, our post-its, our concepts.. where we can ideate, iterate, organize and gather?

False? Forget the open space, forget the free coffee, forget the bring your dog to work days.. GIVE YOUR TEAMS A SPACE! To own. To create. To ideate.

 

That’s your #transformationtuesday challenge.. don’t have a war room? Find one, make one.

venus_wall

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TᕼE IᑎᗪIE ᑕOᑎᔕᑌᒪTᗩᑎT
𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗱𝘂𝗰𝘁 »𝗖𝗫« 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗗𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻

I’m Heatherlee. An independent research and design consultant with a background in UX, a passion for service design, an interest in biomimicry and a stake in your strategy. Thanks for stopping by!

Contact info & more about me here.

 

Learning matters

design work

Understanding the need..

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I’m crafting a research plan which includes a 3-pronged immersive study complete with a plan B and a plan C because let’s face it.. B2B user research doesn’t always go our way.. you might need to get scrappy, you might need to compromise. No matter how we slice it, my job is to make sure we’re learning— that we’re getting quality feedback, understanding user mindsets, the software capabilities and flaws in each context, and WHY what’s not working needs to be better. If we don’t understand the business challenges, the user challenges, we can’t fix or build the right things.

Understanding the problems comes way before dreaming up solutions.

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I’m Heatherlee. An independent research and design consultant with a background in UX, a passion for service design, an interest in biomimicry and a stake in your strategy. Thanks for stopping by!

Contact info & more about me here.

 

Purpose

design work

What’s the why?..

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“Even the best designers produce successful products only if their designs solve the right problems. A wonderful interface to the wrong features will fail.”
— Jakob Nielsen (leading researcher)

“Styles come and go. Good design is a language, not a style.”
— Massimo Vignelli (leading designer)

“Above all else, align with customers. Win when they win. Win only when they win.”
— Jeff Bezos (leading founder)

 

You don’t have to be a designer to understand design has to have a reason. The what is nothing without the why. Features are pointless if it doesn’t solve a problem. Pretty visuals are only a fad if it doesn’t tell a story. Products can’t thrive without happy, collaborative users. Services fail if technology is favored over people. Experienced professionals, who have both succeeded and failed many times over know this.

How can you inspire your team to share this point of view?

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I’m Heatherlee. An independent research and design consultant with a background in UX, a passion for service design, an interest in biomimicry and a stake in your strategy. Thanks for stopping by!

Contact info & more about me here.

 

Meeting the people behind your personas matters

design work

Meet the people..

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Personas only bring value when they’re crafted from true data. Don’t make the stuff up! Go learn about the people you design for, go talk to those you want to serve and you’ll have plenty of facts, you’ll see plenty of similarities and differences amongst your user group if you make the effort to listen. It’s not about who you, your team, your product thinks these people are.. it’s about actually representing the real life people. It’s a process that can take many weeks, even months or years like in some projects I’ve seen, or it can be done in a week. There’s nothing wrong with doing it scrappy. As long as you do it right.. and by right I mean, reflecting the true words, thoughts, lives of the people you’re designing for. Simple as that.

It doesn’t matter how good your UX copywriter is.. a true human-centered persona project requires you to get to know the real people, for real!

No funny business.

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I’m Heatherlee. An independent research and design consultant with a background in UX, a passion for service design, an interest in biomimicry and a stake in your strategy. Thanks for stopping by!

Contact info & more about me here.

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